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Obituaries

Nobel laureate Stanley Cohen dies at age 97

Biochemist’s discovery of epidermal growth factors has led to new treatments for cancer and other diseases

by Linda Wang
February 13, 2020

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Credit: Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Stanley Cohen

Stanley Cohen, emeritus distinguished professor of biochemistry at Vanderbilt University, died on Feb. 5 at age 97.

Cohen and developmental biologist Rita Levi-Montalcini won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of the epidermal growth factor and its receptor, which together controls the signaling pathway in the growth and differentiation of cells. Uncontrolled cell growth plays a role in tumor development and metastasis.

“Stan’s work not only provided key insights into how cells divide, but it led to the development of many drugs that are used to treat cancer,” says Lawrence J. Marnett, dean of basic sciences at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “His studies of growth factor signaling illustrate the powerful impact of basic research.”

Cohen earned a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College, where he double majored in chemistry and biology. He went on to earn a master’s degree in zoology from the Oberlin College and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He joined Vanderbilt University in 1959 as assistant professor of biochemistry.

Cohen has won numerous prizes, including an Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award and the National Medal of Science.

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